Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Friday, May 20th, 2022

We Are Closed On Friday – Flashback

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein

It is Friday again and time for my weekly flashback post. This week I am thinking of all of you who are struggling with the decision to close your office on Friday. This post gives you an example of the message one firm sent out to their clients in 2016. Yes, 2016 and some of you are still debating this issue.

Have a great weekend!

  • We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands.
  • Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

The Entry-Level Challenge

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Yesterday I listened in on a “Thought Leader Debrief” from the AICPA. Barry Melancon, Erik Asgeirsson, and Tom Hood spoke about issues affecting the profession. This is their preview of what will be discussed in more detail at this year’s ENGAGE conference.

One discussion point was, of course, attracting talent. Undergraduate enrollment was down by more than 20% in looking at the December 2021 semester. Of course, part of that 20% is accounting majors. I hope your firm leaders are going into high schools and talking about the benefits of becoming a CPA. There are many!

I have observed and the AICPA leaders agree that CPA firms are not offering entry-level salaries that are high enough to attract talented young professionals looking to quickly excel in their chosen career path.

Inside CPA firms, there isn’t much talk about how you become an owner until you have been with the firm for a substantial number of years. This generation will expect the conversation in the first few months of their employment. Or, even before they accept your offer. They want a clear picture of their career path.

  • Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for doing it.
  • Katharine Whitehorn

Friday, May 6th, 2022

Non-CPA Managers – Flashback Friday

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” – Thomas Fowell Buxton

The shortage of CPAs wanting a career in public accounting has been on my mind for months, maybe years. Many firms limit the career growth of accountants working at the firm if they have not passed the CPA Exam.

Studies tell us that college accounting majors say they don’t want to be a CPA because they don’t want to pass the exam and they don’t want to work that hard.

If the Exam is a barrier and you have lots of work for qualified accountants already at your firm, you may be able to attract other qualified accountants if you provide a manager-level position for non-CPAs. Here’s a flashback post that shares one firm’s story.

  • Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
  • Henry Van Dyke.

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Another Season Unfolds

“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.” Og Mandino

The team and partners have been very busy. Now, they have more time to think about what is going on around them. You might hear comments like:

  • I have a lot more charge hours than Joe. I wonder if I am paid more than Joe?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so hot in the office?
  • How can the firm expect us to do our best work when it is always so cold in the office?
  • I mostly work from home, I miss out on the treats people bring into the office.
  • Sally is always late and then she eats breakfast in the lunchroom before she starts to work.
  • Ted actually exits out the rear entrance at 3:00 when the partners are away from the office.
  • The people working in the office get a lot more training than I do.
  • Why do I have to come into the office two days per week?
  • Susie and Joyce Admin chat at the front desk for a half-hour every morning!
  • The firm does so much for people with families. I am single. What special stuff do I get?
  • Joe Partner always leaves such a mess around the coffee machine.

Tax season is over (for now). It is the Dealing With People Season. It always makes me think of Seinfeld:

Elaine: I will NEVER understand people.

Jerry: They’re the worst.

Some of these complaints might seem extreme to you but I bet you can tell me even better “stories” about people complaining. Good luck with Dealing With People Season!

  • Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most do.
  • Dale Carnegie

Monday, April 18th, 2022

Age Discrimination

“You cannot just hire younger people. It’s illegal.” – Suzanne Lucas

Probably, right now, in the CPA profession, you will hire anyone remotely qualified! That’s not really a true statement but finding talent really is a challenging fact of life for CPA firm leaders. There is no end in sight to this problem.

I thought it might be a good time to remind you about age discrimination when hiring. Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady) shares a very interesting article about a company that openly proclaimed that they only hire Gen Z. Watch out for lawsuits! Read the article here.

  • Chance words spoken in kindness often help amazingly; and that's what old people are here for —else their experience is of little use.
  • Louisa May Alcott

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Why Do You Stay?

“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” – Stephen Hawking

I have heard a similar story many times during my years of talking with CPA firm team members.

I am often asked to counsel an employee working in a CPA firm. They tell me things. Sometimes I hear things via an upward feedback survey interview or at a conference. It involves a certain team member sharing somewhat of a horror story with me.

They tell me that they never hear a partner say thank you. They are not recognized or appreciated for their hard work and dedication. Any kind of formal feedback never happens. Many leaders are unprofessional, distant, grumpy, unhappy, unappreciative, self-centered, short-tempered, greedy, weird, crazy, and sometimes even worse. They (the leaders/partner) will not change and embrace current trends.

When I ask the obvious question, “Why do you stay?” I get similar and somewhat surprising answers.

  • They don’t mean to be rude.
  • They are really very busy and can’t help themselves.
  • I like the location, it is close to my home.
  • They pay me fairly.
  • I like my co-workers.
  • I like my clients.
  • They do provide some flexibility,
  • I can’t make this much money somewhere else.

I wonder if they just like to complain. At one time, I had one of those “No Whining” signs in my office because I really heard more whining than complaining.

Has it just become part of the firm culture? And, the validity of those complaints can’t be serious or why would they stay?

Be sure to work on the culture at your firm. If you don’t focus on it and continually work on it, it will form on its own and might not be something you are proud of.

  • That I be not as those are who spend the day in complaining of headache and the night in drinking the wine which gives the headache!
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, April 11th, 2022

More Clarity About PTO & Remote Workers

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

Recently, there was a discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. Someone wanted guidance on how firms are managing PTO as it relates to remote and flexible schedules for team members.

I thought a great reply was provided by my friend, Donna Marlarkey, Firm Administrator for KWC in Alexandria, Virginia. Her comments and answers to questions follow:

We do not have required days in the office, yet, we make it known that the ability to work remotely is not a right; rather it is a privilege, and if they are not getting their work done, or there are performance issues those will be dealt with, even if that means requiring them to come into the office for more supervision. Also, having the privilege of a private office requires a commitment to come into the office at least 3 days a week. We have some office sharing and use a calendar reservation system for offices designated as a hotel, which has worked out well. Here are answers to your specific questions:

  • Have you updated any PTO policies regarding sick time?  Do you allow employees to simply be remote now where in the past they would have had to take a PTO day? ANS:  We have not updated our PTO policies.  People use PTO when they are unable to work due to sickness or need to take care of personal stuff.  
  • Do you allow employees to flex their time (e.g. take time off for a midday appointment and make it up at a later time that same week) or do you require PTO?  ANS:  We allow employees to flex their time as long as they keep their supervisor in the loop; we also put notes in our electronic EIO board which reflect our schedules for when we expect to be in the office or not… it’s all about communication and letting people know when you are available.  Some people do their best work after 10:00 pm… or at 4:00 am… so far we’ve not had trouble allowing them to choose the schedule that works best for them as long as they get their work done. 
  • Have you changed your PTO policy or adjusted the number of PTO hours available since moving to a hybrid model? ANS:  No.
  • Do you allow employees to pick and choose remote days or do you require a consistent schedule?  ANS:  They pick and choose. We do, however, have certain days of the week where certain teams are encouraged to be in the office for collaboration purposes. Also, we moved our staff meetings to completely remote – we conduct them once a month using Zoom Webinar.  We use Microsoft Teams a LOT to stay in touch both for video calling and for screen sharing for training and supervision.  

It is important to hold onto your staff any way you can, but also get work done. One last thought is that we have an AMAZING admin team, and for the most part they need to come into the office to do their tasks, but even with the admin team, as long as they have work they can do remotely (e.g. billing, electronic tax return assembly or organizing scanned materials), we do not have heartburn if they do some of that work from home. We’ve had one administrative person who has been fully remote since 2008!

  • Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  • Stephen Covey

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Dress Appropriately

“Elegance is a question of personality, more than one’s clothing.” — Jean-Paul Gaultier

People are beginning to return to offices. They have become accustomed to wearing sweatpants, flip-flops pajama bottoms, etc. Now they are faced with wearing something that doesn’t have an elastic waist!

I recently discovered that Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, when she was HR leader at the company, reduced their several-page dress code to two words: Dress appropriately.

If you are a plumber, you dress appropriately for your work. If a plumber showed up at my door dressed to run a marathon. I would not be impressed.

I went to see a dentist once, in an emergency situation, he was not dressed like my regular dentist dressed and he actually seemed creepy to me.

Many CPA firms before the pandemic embraced a dress appropriately policy. I think that is a good policy and should be continued. But, has “appropriately” changed in light of the remote work world? Try to determine what your clients will think of you and dress appropriately.

  • The way you dress is an expression of your personality.
  • Alessandro Michele

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

Insights From the CEO of GM

The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney

Mary Barra is the CEO of General Motors. In her 38 years at GM, Barra has been an executive assistant, plant manager, product developer, and HR leader, among other roles before she became CEO.

In an interview with Adam Grant at The Wharton School, she shared some insights on leadership at a past Wharton People Analytics Conference.

  • Ask for feedback from your staff
  • Meet to discuss, not to disseminate information
  • Simplify your message
  • Remember to effect change: Benefits>Effort
  • Know your business
  • Win both hearts and minds
  • Align on values
  • Lead culture with behaviors

This list alone should be helpful to you but be sure to read the article to learn about her comments on each of these insights.

I admire leaders who work their way up in an organization. I believe they have greater insight and knowledge about the people and the organization they now lead.

  • Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

AICPA Survey Results About Recruitment and Retention Struggles

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” — Napoleon Hill

The following is a press release from the AICPA.

Impact of Unfilled Jobs: Staff Restructurings, Delayed Projects and Deferred Expansions

AICPA & CIMA Survey Polled U.S. Executives on Recruitment and Retention Struggles

NEW YORK (March 30, 2022) – Almost one in four U.S. business executives said the ongoing impact of unfilled jobs had forced them to restructure staff to protect core operations or limited the pursuit of new projects or bids, according to an AICPA & CIMA survey.

A dearth of skilled job candidates had been a top concern for businesses for years before the pandemic and quickly reemerged as the recovery progressed. Business leaders list “availability of skilled personnel” as a challenge second only to inflation in the latest AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polls CEOs, CFOs and other senior-level CPAs and management accountants in the finance function. Top-line results of the quarterly survey were released earlier this month.

Some 82% of business executives said their organizations were having at least some difficulty with recruitment and retention, with 17% characterizing it as extreme difficulty. The latter is actually an improvement from the fourth quarter last year, when it stood at 25%.

Some 31% of survey takers said mid-level staff openings have been the most difficult to fill, while 28% said the problem is across the board. One in four identified entry level positions as the most challenging category to recruit.

While 40% of business executives said unfilled jobs have not had a significant impact on operations, a majority said the problem had manifested itself in several ways within their organizations. The most common outcomes (survey takers could choose more than one):

  • Restructured staff to protect core operations (24%)
  • Limited new projects or bids (23%)
  • Delayed service expansions (16%)
  • Slowed customer/client acquisition (9%)
  • Reduced hours of operations or  work shifts (7%)
  • Closed some work locations (3%)

“We know from our survey that 57% of business executives report they have too few employees,”  said Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, vice president and managing director of CGMA learning, education and development for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing the AICPA and CIMA. “Pandemic-related trends such as the Great Resignation have complicated an already difficult hiring situation, and that can exacerbate burnout and disaffection among remaining staff if the situation isn’t managed carefully.”

To combat the tight labor market, companies have adopted a number of recruitment and retention strategies, principally higher wages and more flexible work arrangements, although the former has been driven in part by inflationary pressures. Signing bonuses are also increasing as a tactic to attract new talent.

Methodology

The first-quarter AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey was conducted from Feb. 2-23, 2022, and included 461 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points. A copy of the report can be found on aicpa.org.

  • Don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.
  • Marian Wright Edelman